California beach town votes for Pride flag ban

Voters in Huntington Beach, California have passed a ballot measure that bans non-governmental flags from being flown from government buildings. 

Elections were held in California on Tuesday (5 March), with results from the Orange County Registrar of Voters showing more than 58 per cent of voters had said “yes” on Measure B, whch enshrines an ordinance into the city charter to prohibit all commemorative flags, such as the Pride flag, being flown or displayed on city properties. 

However, the city, county and state flag, as well as the armed forces flags and the Stars and Stripes are exempt. The mayor is also authorised to fly the Olympic flag in the run-up to the summer games, and other flags can be flown if unanimously approved by members of the Huntington Beach City Council. 

The move was to ensure the city is focusing on “unity”, mayor Gracey van der Mark claimed.

“We want to remove all special interests and just focus on flags that represent all of us, regardless of our race, gender, sexual orientation,” she said, according to NBC Los Angeles.

However, others see the measure as discriminatory and divisive. 

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Council member Rhonda Bolton, who opposed the measure, said: “If people think it’s OK or it becomes normalised to display bigotry towards a particular group, then folks are going to crawl out of their rock and do bad stuff.” 

Council member Dan Kalmick, who also opposed Measure B, said: “As a tourist community… we should be open and inclusive of everyone, and everyone should feel comfortable to come here and spend their money.”

Agreeing, Natalie Moser said the Republicans were sowing chaos and division. “It’s further dividing the city, our neighbours,” NBC News quoted her as saying.

Peg Coley, the executive director of the LGBTQ Center Orange County, also shared her concerns in a statement describing the city council as being “run by a hateful majority whose only interest is advancing an agenda of intolerance for minority communities, including LGBTQ+ individuals”. 

She went on to say: “The pendulum always swings back and history is the harshest judge, but informed votes are the very best prevention.”

This is not the first time Pride and other types of flags have been banned in the US. In May 2021, a high school in Indiana ordered teachers to remove Pride flags from classrooms to “maintain viewpoint neutrality”.

And last September, two school districts in California banning the flying of LGBTQ+ flags.

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